All posts by Tyler Mounteney

Baseball in Vancouver

New Website

We are happy to launch our new website Baseball in Vancouver.  Our new site features a timeline that highlights important moments in Vancouver’s history of professional and amateur baseball. In conjunction with our new site we have reconfigured our blog, and launched new twitter and facebook pages, to go along with our tumblr page where this all got started.

As we move forward we will be adding  more in depth information for all of the events on our timeline. As we do this we would love to hear from anyone who is interested in contributing to our blog. If you are interested please get in touch with us at baseballinvancouver@gmail.com

Vancouver Maples Leafs player

Vancouver Maple Leafs (1937-1938)

The Vancouver Maple Leafs were a short lived Western International League baseball team that played out of Con Jones park on Renfrew. Named for a colorful local businessman and sports promoter Con Jones, the park was the long time home of Soccer in Vancouver, and played host to many storied clubs including Newcastle, Aberdeen and Charlton Athletic. This video clip shows a large crowd taking in a match at the park in the late 1930’s. In the clip you can make out the baseball diamond on the soccer pitch. The Maple Leafs were largely unsuccessful on and off the field and were sold to brewer Emil Sick prior to the 1939 season. Sick would rename the team the Capilanos after his Vancouver brewery. Sick had done the same thing the prior year when he bought the struggling Seattle Indians and renamed them the Rainiers after his Seattle based brewery. Above, a Maple Leafs playerrounds the bases at practice.

Photo Credit: Vancouver Archives Item : CVA 99 – 3180 – Maple Leaf Baseball Player

Obak Tobacco Cards

Obak Tobacco Cards

These Vancouver Beavers  Obak cards were produced by the same company as the famous T206 series that produced the famous Honus Wagner card. These cards are part of the series T212 that featured mostly PCL players but also included some players from the NWL.

Bob Brown

Bob Brown is arguably the most important person in the history of baseball in Vancouver. As a player, manager and team owner the man known locally as ‘Mr. Baseball’ left an indelible mark on our city. Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Brown was a star athlete at Notre Dame, earning letters in both baseball and football. Brown volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War as a cavalryman, spending most of the war in a camp in Georgia. During the war he contracted malaria, and was sent back to Montana on furlough.

After his release he returned to Notre Dame to finish his schooling. While back at Notre Dame one of Brown’s fellow football players found Brown a job playing right field with the Helena Senators of the Montana State League. There he played alongside Joe Tinker, famed playmaker of the Tinker to Evers to Chance double play combo. When the Montana State League folded in 1901, Brown and Tinkers moved to Portland to play for a team called the Webfoots. At the end of the season Tinker signed with the Chicago Cubs and Brown helped form a team in Pendleton, Oregon where he became a manager.

In 1904, Brown moved to Aberdeen, Washington where he became part of owner of a shoe store. There he managed a number of local teams, eventually leading the Aberdeen Black Cats to the Northwestern League pennant in 1907. It was during his stint with Aberdeen that Brown first came to Vancouver. The colorful Brown was impressed by the quickly growing port city and saw its potential to be a center for both industry and for sport. In 1908, Brown seized the opportunity to become the part owner of the Spokane Indians buying a one quarter share in the team for $1 while signing a two year contract to manage the team. After recognizing that Vancouver’s team was in financial trouble Brown jumped at the chance to buy the struggling Vancouver Beavers for $500 prior to the 1910 season. To seal the deal Brown set up an elaborate secret meeting at the Hotel Vancouver, plying the team’s owners with whiskey and cigars. Brown sold his shares in the Spokane team for $3000, and set up shop in Vancouver playing for and managing his newly acquired team.

The Vancouver Beavers finished in second place in 1910 and earned $3500 by selling the contracts of pitcher Harry Gardner to Pittsburgh, third baseman Dick Breen to Cincinnati, Charles ‘Cy’ Swain to Washington and the drafting of another outfielder, Bill Brinker, by the Chicago White Sox. After winning the league pennant in 1911, Brown was offered $35,000 by an investors group from San Francisco for the team. He refused the offer and instead chose to build a new park for the Beavers at 5th and Hemlock near the foot of the Granville St. bridge. The new facility named Athletic Park would be the home of professional and semi professional baseball in Vancouver for the next 38 years. The park would play host to the Beavers, the Capilanos, and a variety of touring professional and semi-professional teams from across the US, Canada and Japan. It would also be the location of the first night ballgame played in Canada and west of the Mississippi.

Unfortunately, professional minor league baseball in Vancouver did not survive long after WWI. Instead Brown and others started the semi professional Senior City League, featuring many popular clubs sponsored by local businesses, including the famedVancouver Asahi. In 1939, along with Emil Sick and the Capilano Brewery, he purchased the Vancouver Maple Leafs of the Western International league renaming them the Capilanos after Sick’s Vancouver based brewery. In 1945, he sold the ball club but stayed on as vice-president and general manager.

In 1953, at the age of 77, Brown became the president of the Western International League. The next year he “retired” from baseball and began to lobby to have the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League moved to Vancouver. In 1956 the were relocated and renamed the Vancouver Mounties. Bob Brown was made ‘honorary president’ and public relations director and was also put in charge of the team’s youth program. Brown was convinced that there was plenty of major league talent in British Columbia that deserved to be developed. It would be many years before the likes of Larry WalkerJason BayJeff FrancisRyan DempsterJustin MorneauBrett Lawrie and others would prove Brown right by making their mark on the major leagues.

Thanks largely to Brown’s hard work and influence baseball is alive and well in Vancouver both at the professional and amateur level. With Brown’s perseverance over 50 years of service, baseball has remained a constant on the local sports scene despite many hardships. Much has been said about Brown over the years, and it seems there are many tales of Brown’s boisterous character for more detailed and colorful accounts of his life check out his biography at the SABR bioproject or atcanadianbaseball.ca

1908 Vancouver Beavers Postcard

Vancouver Beavers (1908-1922)

In 1908 Vancouver’s baseball team changed its name and its fortunes. The Vancouver Beavers were top of the league in 1908, and would keep their new name until 1922 when the Western International League folded. The team was largely successful throughout its existence, winning the league pennant in 1911 and 1913. Bob Brown joined the team as manager in 1910 and would be hugely important in the development of baseball in Vancouver for several decades.

Photo Source: City of Vancouver Archives Item #AM1052 P-426 – Beavers 1908

Vancouver Canucks (1907)

After the collapse of the Veterans at the end of the 1905 season professional baseball in Vancouver was resurrected in 1907 under a new moniker, the Vancouver Canucks. Many had high hopes for this new team, however those hopes would soon be dashed. The Canucks began the 1907 season under the leadership of Parke Wilson a former New York Giant, who had come to Vancouver after a stint as manager of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. By seasons end the team would come under the leadership of four different managers, playing to a pitiful 34 wins and 106 losses. Bob Brown would make his first trip to Vancouver in 1907 as a player and manager of the Aberdeen Blackcats. Brown would later play a vital role in the development of baseball in Vancouver as both a manager and team owner.

The 1907 Canucks were a largely unremarkable bunch. Ike Van Zandt, a submariner near the end of his career was the only veteran of the major leagues on the squad. Van Zandt was suffering from a sore arm and did not pitch well. He left Vancouver part way through the season only to resurface later that year with the Butte Miners also of the Northwestern League. Vancouver were very upset that Van Zandt had returned to the Northwestern League especially since he was now pitching well. The only other player on the Canucks to play in the majors was one Ham Hyatt who was bought from Vancouver by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hyatt would play six seasons for the Pirates as an outfielder and first basemen before heading to the St. Louis Cardinals, and then later the New York Yankees.